February 22, 2012

Computer Training for Schizophrenics

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Schizophrenia may be treated with computer based cognitive training program

(dailyRx News) Current medicine only treats the symptoms of schizophrenia, and conventional psychotherapy has not been proven to work. This is the difficult reality for schizophrenics, but new therapies may be on the horizon.

A computer-aided cognitive training program has been developed that shows improvement in neural and behavioral activity in schizophrenics.

The patients showed improved ability to differentiate reality from non-reality (reality-monitoring) and improved social behavior - even 6 months after the training program has ended.

"Ask a therapist if cognitive training could benefit you."

Karuna Subramaniam, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, gave patients 80 hours of computerized training over 16 weeks. The program improved the patients ability to perform complex reality-monitoring tasks.

Additionally, the area of the brain associated with reality-monitoring, the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), showed more signs of activity.

“We found that the level of mPFC activation was also linked with better social functioning six months after training," says Subramaniam. "In contrast, patients in a control group who played computer games for 80 hours did not show any improvements, demonstrating that the behavioral and neural improvements were specific to the computerized training patient group."

In short, this is the first study to demonstrate that computerized cognitive training can lead to ‘normal’ brain behavior and improved social functioning in patients with schizophrenia.

The findings are exciting because they predict that neurological disorders, like schizophrenia, may not be permanent conditions, but are treatable with proper intervention and cognitive training programs.

The study is published in the February 23 issue of the journal Neuron and was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Two of the researchers, Gregory Simpson and Sophia Vinogradov, work for Brain Plasticity Institute, Inc., which has a financial interest in computerized cognitive training programs.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
February 17, 2012

Last Updated:
February 22, 2012